A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“You see we are now trying to understand, and to separate into water-tight compartments, what exactly God does and what man does when God and man are working together. And, of course, we begin by thinking it is like two men working together, so that you could say, ‘He did this bit and I did that.’ But this way of thinking breaks down. God is not like that. He is inside you as well as outside: even if we could understand who did what, I do not think human language could properly express it (p. 149).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
As I reflect on this quote I am in the midst of coaching both my 5 year old’s t-ball team and my 7 year old’s coach pitch baseball team. In many ways I think this can serve as an effective metaphor for what Lewis is describing.
On the one hand, a coach does nothing. A coach does not hit a ball, throw a ball, field a ball, or run the bases. The players do absolutely everything that goes towards scoring a run or getting an out. When a player does a good job, the fans go crazy and cheer exclusively for the player
On the other hand, a coach makes all the difference in the world. While some t-ball coaches may feel like little more than volunteer cat herders, they teach, motivate, and facilitate everything that goes on during the game. There would be absolutely nothing that resembles organized athletics without the coach.
We have just described a scenario in which you can say both parties did nothing and both parties did everything. When a player who didn’t know how to hold the bat hits a home run, who gets the credit for what? How do you differentiate the coach’s motivation from the player’s determination? Where is the line between the coach’s instruction and the player’s coordination?
Being immersed in this situation a second question comes to my mind – who really cares? I do think there is some value to the question, but if we insist on dissecting it too much the patient will die. I’ve seen coaches who try to do everything “just right” and end up being over-bearing, aloof, boring, or motivationally sterile.
Trying to strictly or definitively divide responsibility tends to attack “oneness.” When a coach has to say to a player, “I call the plays. You run the plays,” that usually means something is broken and the team is hurting. Trust and communication are damaged.
Why do we insist on doing this with God? Could I suggest there are two possible reasons: we don’t trust God or we don’t want to have to rely on God. I don’t say to a player I trust, “Promise me you’re going to run to first after you hit the ball.” A player who wants to rely on his coach doesn’t say, “I can do this by myself.”
I believe for many of us our Christian faith would be much healthier if we trusted the mystery of divine-human responsibility and just celebrated the fruit as we actively-relied upon God. God is in us, around us, and works through our natural abilities. We have abilities and responsibilities that we must utilize or fulfill if we are going to experience God’s will.
Let’s not get so caught up in who gets credit for what when the fruit of the Spirit show up in our lives. Let’s celebrate that we were the kid who didn’t know how to hold the bat (or worse “dead in our trespasses and sin”) and now through God’s influence we have been enabled to hit a home run. Let’s run the bases, hug “Coach” as we cross the plate, and celebrate.